The Becton College and the Student Government Association partnered on Tuesday, Sept. 29, to put together the first Hot Topics event of the year, focusing on the changing landscape of television and other new media. The talk – formally titled “Television and the New Media: Who’s watching? What are they watching? How are they watching?” – was held in Lenfell Hall in the Mansion.
Christopher Caldiero, associate professor of communication studies, moderated the panel. Joining him were Kathleen Haspel, associate professor of communication studies; David Landau, associate professor of film; Michael Smith, director of NBC’s “The Mysteries of Laura;” and Jessica Hollander-Sunshine, a junior communication studies major.
Caldiero led the discussion off by talking about how television shapes our worldview. He discussed neo-television and how television has begun to replace our expectations of how life works. People are supposed to look flawless, and San Francisco solely defines itself by the Golden Gate Bridge and cable cars. The expectation then becomes that other than these defining qualities, San Francisco is no different than any other big city. Television news, too, has become banal.
“How many times do we watch television and see [that] something is breaking news? More and more it’s the most mundane, banal material. When breaking news came on when I was a child, you’d lock the doors, get under the dining room table,” Caldiero said.
Pure escapism and the evolution of content were the main focuses of Landau’s discussion. He discussed how television has changed so much in the last 30 years.
For example, “Star Trek: The Next Generation” broke the mold of only having original content on the big three networks. Fox rose because of its original content like “The Simpsons.” Now every channel produces some of its own original content out of necessity.
For Smith, one word stands above the rest: content.
From the shows themselves to social media to online extras, content is everywhere. He discussed how content in the form of free advertising has become the new norm.
Twitter especially has become a way for actors to interact with their fan bases to promote their show. Live tweets of original content allows viewers to experience the show more fully. For Smith’s show, “The Mysteries of Laura,” actors from the show tweeted along with the audience as they watched the premiere.
The biggest change with the influx of original content from internet sources is that the traditional September to May calendar is less relevant, according to Smith. This also applies to the weekly schedule that networks have to run on.
Traditionally, cable and network shows start their seasons in September or May and have to produce shows for every week, whereas streaming services like Netflix do not have the same restrictions.
Viewers watch at their own pace. They could watch the entire season in one sitting once it is released or spread the viewing out.
Haspel and Hollander-Sunshine focused on the diversification of television. Haspel discussed the changes in the roles for different ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations and classes.
Reality television has opened doors for more diverse roles.
Many of these shows tell the stories far different from the comfortable – and mostly white – sitcoms the public is so used to. Roles in these sitcoms and dramas have also started to shift.
Social media’s impact on the content that we see on television was Hollander-Sunshine’s biggest discussion point.
Viewers can now affect the content by interacting with the show on social media and addressing issues that are covered.
Television is typically on the forefront of expressing social issues and the acceptance of more social issues has come through because of changes in television.
For example, when Caitlyn Jenner won her ESPY award for courage, it showed the personal side of the transgender conversation and warmed some of the American public up to accept more of the transgender population.
Following each panelist’s time, a rather shy crowd asked a few questions, which allowed for panelists to expand on their talks.
“I enjoyed [the discussion], but the panelists should had more time to talk,” said Kevin Loveland, a junior communication studies major.